Cell phones are hypocritical. We have them to stay connected. We can call or text our loved ones from practically anywhere. We use social media to feel like we are "in the know" and to broadcast our successes or thrills to our friends, family, and frankly, anyone who will listen. We live in such a small world now. However, sometimes the connection we believe we have is only an illusion. Often, when we are so absorbed in these technologies that were initially meant to connect, we are no longer involved in the world around us.
There have been many articles written about how social media impacts us. Maria Konnikova of The New Yorker, writes about how social networks, such as Facebook, actually make people feel lonely. A study by psychologist Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan found that the more time people spent on Facebook might cause feelings of jealousy or envy. Konnikova notes that the way we use social media results in our general feelings. If we are active, then we feel better, and if we just passively look at posts, loneliness creeps in: "The passive experiences, no matter the medium, translate to feelings of disconnection and boredom.”i
Regardless of whether Facebook is a cause or a symptom, people are often finding themselves unable to interact in society without devices. We use our phones to avoid eye contact with the humans who are actually near us. We look for acceptance online rather than having meaningful conversations with friends. We have become obsessed with taking our own pictures, showing people an image of who we think the world will approve of instead of showing the world our ideas, what we can create, and what we can do for others. We don’t know how to occupy our time without electronic media, and we are often not content with reality.
There is something about interacting directly with people, being aware of what is going on around us, and using creativity to rid ourselves of boredom that makes us feel good, makes us feel alive. And although our digital technologies are often the culprits, they do not have to be. Being aware of how we use social media, the Internet, and our phones can be the difference between connection and detachment. As Daniel Burrus states in ‘Is Technology Good or Evil?,’ “If we want a more human world, rather than a less human world; if we want to be a more enlightened planet of human beings, rather than less enlightened; and if we want to use technology to do more good than bad, then we have to take action to make it that way.”ii Let’s use our digital devices to learn and research interesting things, to invite people to events, to spark worthwhile discussion, and to share our creative projects. Let’s make technology our muse.
By Anna Brake, author of Music Trends of the 21st Century: Technology Influencing Culture, available now on amazon.
i Maria Konnikova, “How Facebook Makes Us Unhappy,” The New Yorker, September 10, 2013, http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/how-facebook-makes-us-unhappy
ii Daniel Burrus, “Is Technology Good or Evil?,” Huffington Post, August 24, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-burrus/is-technology-good-or-evi_b_1826270.html